Sir Cameron Mackintosh, Lord Puttnam CBE, Stephen Fry, John James, and Tom Harvey MBE are among the London’s creatives and property magnates who have drafted a letter to George Osborne (pictured) and Eric Pickles, urging them to protect office spaces in Soho.
The number of small office spaces available for creative companies has reportedly seen a sharp decline in recent years, as more properties are converted into high residential flats and houses.
“We all appreciate the need for housing in London, but many of the residential redevelopments are way outside the pockets of most Londoners,” said Tom Harvey, CEO of new creative festival SohoCreate.
“Local authorities have to retain the power to execute planning strategy according to local need, not to a one-size-fits-all policy forced on them by central government that will drive the creative industries out into the fringes of our towns and cities.”
The letter, printed in full below, includes signatories from Soho’s most prominent property developments, as well as from the creative industries.
Dear George Osborne and Eric Pickles,
We write about an imminent crisis for London’s creative businesses.
The square mile of Soho and its surrounds is the most creative in the world. In its way it is at least as important as the square mile in The City. Soho is responsible for 10% of the country’s creative turnover. 20% of London’s new creative jobs are based here. A quarter of Soho’s entire workforce is in the creative sectors. It is unique and valuable.
In the last four years Soho has lost 30,000 square metres of office space and gained twice that amount in residential. The creative clustering that makes this such an extraordinary economic and cultural engine is under threat as a result. There is a very real danger that we will erode the creative fabric of Soho past the point we can ever rebuild it.
We appreciate the need for housing in London, but the massive loss of office and studio space is hugely damaging both economically and culturally. Soho has recently lost working space for 3,000 people and, therefore, up to £500million in turnover as a result of the shift to residential. The majority of new residential is also expensive and only suitable for portfolio investment or very high net worth individual purchases.
The City Council, local property developers and the creative industries all agree. It is essential that we are able to address local cluster needs within the planning approval process. Currently there are no grounds for resisting applications for conversion of office use to residential.
Any diminishing of the scale and impact of the creative industries in Soho will be a massive loss of business and prestige to London and the whole UK. We ask that you urgently address this.
London is the creative capital of the world and we must do more to ensure creative people and companies remain at its centre. The creative industries are growing rapidly and should be seen as a vital and energetic part of our cities. They generate every form of wealth. Importantly, therefore, we are all keen to know what policy commitments you are able to make in your forthcoming manifesto to protect creative industry space in London and, by extension, the UK as a whole.
Nick Allott OBE
David Evans, Chairman The Soho Society
Stephen Fry, Chairman of Save Soho
Sally Greene OBE
Tom Harvey MBE
Sir John Hegarty
John James, MD Soho Estates
Pat Joseph CCO The Mill
Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho CBE
Ian Livingstone CBE
Sir Cameron Mackintosh
Steve Marmion, Artistic Director Soho Theatre
Sir Alan Parker CBE
Lord Puttnam CBE
Cllr Philippa Roe, Leader of Westminster City Council
Sir William Sargent
Sir Paul Smith CBE
Sir John Sorrell CBE
John Spearman, Chairman Framestore